Extracellular mitochondrial DNA promote NLRP3 inflammasome activation and induce acute lung injury through TLR9 and NF-κB

Guannan Wu, Qingqing Zhu, Junli Zeng, Xiaoling Gu, Yingying Miao, Wujian Xu, Tangfeng Lv, Yong Song


Background: Extracellular mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was demonstrated to be capable of inducing pulmonary inflammation through TLR9 while its role in NLRP3 inflammation activation remains unknown.
Methods: C57BL/6 mice were challenged intratracheally with mtDNA. Pulmonary pathology, the NLRP3 and caspase-1 p20 in lung tissues were assayed. PMA-primed THP-1 macrophages were incubated with mtDNA in vitro and cell-free medium were concentrated to detect caspase-1 p20 subunit and NLRP3 by Western blotting. Additionally, IL-1β, L-18, TNF-α and caspase-1 activity in culture were also analyzed by ELISA kits and activity assay kit.
Results: Intratracheal administration of mtDNA increased NLRP3 and caspase-1 p20 subunit in lung together with excessive inflammation and damage. Inhibition of caspase-1 substantially diminished mtDNA- induced lung injury and inflammation. Exposed to mtDNA in THP-1 macrophages resulted in significant up-regulation of NLRP3 and increased caspase-1 p20 subunit release in culture. It also led to significant increased transcripts of NLRP3, ASC, caspase-1 and release of IL-1β, IL-18 and TNF-α in culture media. Futhermore, mtDNA exposure resulted in significant up-regulation of phosho -p38 MAPK and nucleus translocation of NF-κB. mtDNA-induced Transcripts of NLRP3 and ASC were inhibited by p38 siRNA inhibitor or NF-κB inhibitor.
Conclusions: Extracellular mtDNA promote NLRP3 inflammasome activation, acute pulmonary inflammation and injury through TLR9, p38 MAPK and NF-κB pathways.